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White House Communications Director to Hop to Commerce

By Michael D. Shear
White House Communications Director Ellen Moran is leaving her post to become the chief of staff at the Commerce Department, becoming the first of President Obama's top advisers to depart his inner circle, White House sources said.

Moran, the former executive director of Emily's List, was one of the few top White House advisers who was not a longtime part of Obama's entourage. Most of the other top jobs in the West Wing went to senior campaign advisers or longtime friends.

In a statement, Obama said: "I thank Ellen Moran for her leadership during these first critical months of my administration, and I am pleased she will serve as chief of staff at the Department of Commerce. Her management and strategic skills will ensure that Secretary Locke, an important member of my economic team, gets off to a fast start."

As communications director, Moran was involved in developing Obama's early press strategy and in helping to roll out the president's ambitious agenda.

But she was rarely in the spotlight, overshadowed by press secretary Robert Gibbs, who performs the daily news briefing, and by Dan Pfeiffer, her deputy, who worked with the president throughout the campaign.

A veteran of Democratic politics, Moran was named to the top communications post in November, becoming one of the top women in the administration and the only senior woman in the communications shop.

Prior to coming to the White House, Moran had worked at Emily's List, a group committed to the election of pro-choice women to public office. Before that, she worked for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D), the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

White House sources said she will become the chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke over the next two weeks, and will continue to participate in setting administration strategy.

There was no word on whether Pfeiffer or Gibbs would take over as communications director. Typically, that job has been one of the more senior jobs in the West Wing. But Gibbs' relationship with Obama has made him more central to decision-making than many press secretaries.

Moran's departure was first reported by the Associated Press.

Posted at 6:40 PM ET on Apr 21, 2009  | Category:  Cast of Characters
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